Connect to Forgiveness

One of the key learning points in my book, The Newsmaker is, Forgive Frequently, The power of the second chance. “Forgiveness is not about forgetting, but about letting go. When we extend second chances, we enhance our ability to influence others, which only increases our leadership potential.”

Our authentic-influence with others hinges on our ability to forgive. We should keep in mind that forgiveness is internal and external as well. When we chose not to forgive ourselves (internal), we limit our ability to be innovative. When we chose not to forgive others (external), we minimize our ability to influence. Withholding forgiveness damages the connection between two people. Damaged connections lead to broken relationships and forced-authority. Both rob you of true joy.

Strengthening Forgiveness to Build Authentic-Influence

A leader must come to grips with the fact humans make mistakes. While we strive to minimize errors in mission critical areas of life, there are many areas of life where mistakes happen. In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, he writes about research from his time at Harvard entitled, “The Tetris Effect.”

The premise of the Tetris Effect is, when exposed to prolonged periods of repetitive patterns, your mind begins to program itself to find those patterns. At Harvard, a study was conducted with students playing the game of Tetris for extended periods of time. After they were done, the students were interviewed and talked about seeing the space around them as one big Tetris game, mentally trying to place shapes into spaces around them.

What we should consider when studying this research is, when we spend our time looking for mistakes, we train our mind to see everything and everyone as a possible mistake. Our ability to forgive weakens if our default is towards immediate fault. Here are three steps to improve our ability to forgive.

The Power of Second Chances

1.     Give not Take: Leaders who depend on forced-authority will look for ways to win, at times taking away the benefit of doubt, assuming the worse intent from the beginning. However, when we give the benefit of doubt, we win. In his book, Give and Take, Dr. Adam Grant writes, “When takers win there’s usually someone else who loses. In contrast, when givers . . .win, people are rooting for them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

2.     Guilt not Shame: Dr. Brene’ Brown provides insight into the difference between guilt and shame in her book, Dare to Lead. “Guilt is, I did something bad. Shame is, I am bad.” Our ability to forgive ourselves is limited when we confuse these words. Shame, when focused internally, will create such a toxic sensation, most people turn to self-medication to alleviate the pain. Realizing you are put here for a reason and have purpose can help redirect missteps in life away from shame. Guilt, not shame, is often the driving factor behind admitting a mistake . . . forgiving yourself. To move away from shame, move toward empathy.

3.     Lifting not Minimizing: When doing research for The Kingmaker, I came across the diary of an ancient king. In his writings he wrote this, “Two are better than one for there is a good return on the investment, should one fall the other is there to pick them up; but pity the one who falls and has no one there to pick them up.” Much of forgiveness is our willingness to lift others up once they stumble. It is my belief the good return the king speaks of is the authentic connectedness created by lifting. Authentic-Influence is built through lifting others up, not letting them collapse.